January 24, 2009


As I was out walking the other day I thought about how some of the sights I see daily seem so normal now, like this little trailer in an alley where people go to buy bread.

Or these huge Lenin statues that are everywhere................. Or people wearing so many clothes that you can hardly see their faces.

This is a typical look for me now; hat, gloves, scarf, boots, and plastic bag, with my purse hanging over my shoulder (not too attractive I know).  However it's not too bad if everyone looks like this right?

 All the apartment buildings that have large black garbage containers out in front and sometimes a triangular cage that holds the recycled bottles and cans. Or the small groups of old ladies who shovel the walkways.
As I was going to get my hair done the other day I was thinking about how much our lives have changed. We have gotten use to so many things that felt so strange when we first arrived.

Sometimes we see some pretty strange things. Yesterday when I was walking with the Sisters on our way to Anya's house I saw an old lady walking with a sign around her neck carrying a little plastic cup. Sister Ellison and I talked about it for a minute. She said, it really wasn't an unusual sight for her to see. I have often seen older women standing somewhere on a corner with a little plastic cup in their hands but never have I seen someone with a sign hanging around their neck. Especially a little old woman.
It makes me sad.

In some ways the sights we see are very similar to what we see at home like graffiti written on walls, or teenagers standing on the street corners. But some things I will never get use to. I have gotten use to shoving my way into the crowded marshruka, and using my very broken Russian to ask the bus driver to let me off at my stop. Sometimes when we speak the driver will slowly look back to see who that strange language is coming out of. It is no longer strange to see small groups of homeless dogs wandering the streets. Last night Bruce and I were walking to the Church to teach our Strengthening Marriage Class. It was dark, and cold out. There were small groups of men standing around drinking beers that we passed when we got off the bus. We maneuvered the dark streets trying to avoid the muddy puddles that laid beneath the surface of the snow. We were both carrying bags that contained our lesson materials and other things we may need like our umbrella and scarves and hats on the cold walk home. As we approached the church I mentioned to Bruce, "we probably wouldn't have imagined we would be doing this when we first arrived here". The strange thing was it just felt so normal.

It's hard to explain the adjustment we have made. Living in a new Country is an incredible experience. There are so many things that are so different from what we are use to. For instance, it took 3 or 4 weeks to finally get someone to come fix our Internet and it is still randomly shutting off. When we asked the guy what we owed him, he said, "there is no charge, but you can give me something if you'd like", (at least that is the translation we were given). When we go to the Pharmacy it seems we can only buy one item at a time. Bruce uses a special cream on his skin but they will only give him one tube at a time. Sometimes we see something new at the grocery store that we like and are so excited that they are finally carrying this item but then when we come back we never see it on the shelf again. You are never allowed to carry anything into a grocery store except your purse. There is a guard you watches closely and he will stop you if you try to get in with anything else. They have a little place where you have to check your things and get a little number. You can not ever go pass the check out stand to get out if you haven't purchased anything. The guard will stop you and make you go out the approved exit.

In many shops that are like office supply stores or electronic stores when you buy something they give you a little written check that you must take to another counter to pay, then you take your receipt and go back and get the item and take it to another counter where they plug it in and make sure it works because NOTHING CAN BE RETURNED. EVER.

People carry plastic bags everywhere. They sell them in the Reenik. They don't really carry tote bags or backpacks, just recycled plastic bags. We now have our own supply of plastic bags we carry our umbrellas in, our hats, and scarves and anything else we may need for the day.

One of the things that was really distressing to us is that we will not be able to do our Puppet Shows in the schools. It seems it is against the law for any church to go into the schools except the Provaslavic Church.

I am not complaining, I am just saying.......................

Life is certainly different living in a foreign country

2 messages from friends and family:

Robin said...

I loved this post. I loved reading about the way of life in the Ukraine. It made me remember all the differences I experienced while in Poland. The little trailor where you buy bread reminded me of the little stores in Poland that we called, "spotsy-watsy's". Now of course that is NOT how you say it correctly, but that is how we read it phonetically, so we called it that. I will never forget the sposty-watsy's. They were tiny little box-like stores placed randomly on corners or wherever, and they carried the most random items. They would have deoderant, miniature plastic cows, perfume, windshield wipers - seriously it was like Walmart in a telephone booth. It was hysterical.
Oh and I'll never forget the brooms the men used on the school grounds where I worked. They were sticks attached to a longer stick. I always wondered, "why not just use a regular broom".
I also remember my first road trip there from the airport in Warsaw to Tczew in norther Poland. Oh my gosh - six hours of NO traffic laws. I thought I was on the night bus in the Harry Potter movie. Scarey. I remember telling the bus driver, "my mother wouldn't like it if she knew you were driving this way". And passing - oh man, it was like playing chicken. Definitely scarey experience, but so fun.
I guarantee that even though you will be happy to be home, you will have left your heart in the Ukraine, and you will long for the place where you served.
Have a happy day.

dixiewhitehead said...

That was really interesting. Thanks so much for the glimpse into Ukraine. Isn't it amazing what is "strange" and what is "common" and how quickly it can change.

Saints in Ukraine (put music on pause)

My music

click on the photo to see the captions

Armenia Trip

Our last Zone Conference

Some of the faces we will miss

Our trip to Mariupol

March Zone Conference in Donetsk(click on photo to view a larger version)

Missionaries helping the International Relief Development unload a container from America

Health Fair click on the photo to see what is coming up

To listen to this talk you will need to put the music on pause first

Sometimes we forget what divine gifts we have been given. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor in the First Presidency of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints


Look at the fun equipment we got to deliver to this internat for Special Needs children

Europe East Area District Meeting


OUR APARTMENT (this is not an average missionary apartment)




Click on photo to see more photos of the Open House at the Kalininsky blg